The Rundown: Financial Losses Likely to Continue in ’21, Winter Meetings Set to Go Virtual, Mayor Lightfoot Throws Cubs a Bone

Black Friday is upon us and though it has been a traditional starting point for what is known as hot stove season, the absence of in-person gatherings means front offices will need to burn through their mobile plans to do business this offseason. This year’s Winter Meetings will be held virtually from December 7-10.

At last year’s annual tradefest in San Diego, super agent Scott Boras earned $824 million in contracts for his clients in the span of 48 hours. That windfall included deals for Gerrit Cole (Yankees), Anthony Rendon (Angels), and Mike Moustakas (Reds), plus an extension for Stephen Strasburg with the Nationals. This year’s top free agent crop of George Springer, Trevor Bauer, DJ LeMahieu, and J.T. Realmuto, should earn about half that much.

In theory, we should see a lot more trades, including some of the game’s greatest shortstops like Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, and possibly Javier Báez, but that market may be slow to develop, too, since most teams are unsure of what fan attendance will look like in 2021.

One thing is for certain, there will likely be an imbalance of gate receipts among all 30 teams depending on how their representative cities plan to open their economies. It seems like bigger cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles could be at a disadvantage compared to some of the smaller markets. For one, the per-game revenue losses are much higher. Larger cities are also likely to be slower to reopen than some of their less densely populated brethren. We may see fans at games in places like Milwaukee, Cincinnati, St. Louis, or Pittsburgh before we see them at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs’ entire revenue structure is fully dependent on the Wrigleyville area being open for business. In addition to the ballpark, team ownership has interests in restaurants, Gallagher Way, and Hotel Zachary, all of which have been running at 25% capacity or less since the start of the pandemic. The Cubs lost a reported $140 million in 2020 and could see equally sizable losses in the coming year as well. Marquee Sports Network offered no boost to revenues this year, either.

That won’t sit well with Cubs fans who want the Rickettses to spend. In fact, it may take up to five years before the North Siders are once again profitable. Tax credits due to the family as the result of Wrigley Field being granted federal landmark status should be a tourniquet of sorts, but that money will not be directed toward the organization’s baseball operations budget.

In the meantime, baseball’s hot stove season will go on. Jed Hoyer and his staff will likely remain on the sidelines for the first half of the winter or longer, hoping to sift through whatever is left in the bargain bins of free agency. We’ll get a sense of which direction he is leaning as arb-eligible players are tendered or non-tendered contracts in the next week. Trade rumors will be bountiful and you can expect to hear a lot of trade chatter about the Cubs’ core players, many of whom are entering their final year of club control.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Going above and beyond for Thanksgiving: The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation had to adjust its efforts during the pandemic, but it still raised $850,000 for families during Thanksgiving.
  • Theo Epstein leaves a complicated and interesting legacy, one that includes some controversy.
  • There will be internal promotions as part of the front-office restructuring, but Jed Hoyer wants a GM from outside the organization who can offer fresh eyes and thoughts.
  • If there is one thing that remains clear, it’s that Hoyer and his staff are open for business. With that said, and though the new president of baseball operations is not expected to keep the team’s core intact, a full rebuild doesn’t seem likely.
  • Jon Lester would be a decent option for the role of fifth starter and, assuming Wrigley Field will be allowed to open its gates in the coming season, it would allow fans to give Lester a proper send-off.
  • The Cubs shouldn’t need a closer unless they trade Craig Kimbrel, but a free agent like Alex Colomé would really strengthen the back end of the team’s bullpen (video).
  • Though not a rumor, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com put together a couple of trade proposals, one that includes Kris Bryant and Kyle Hendricks going to the Nationals for Carter Kieboom and two pitching prospects.
  • Cubs fans may have to face the reality that Bryant will not play for the Cubs in 2021, though it should never have come to that.
  • Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot is offering the Cubs a temporary financial break to help counter their lost revenues in 2020. Lightfoot proposed delaying the team’s $250,000 payment to the Cub Fund — a tax of sorts that bankrolls neighborhood infrastructure improvements like street resurfacing and lighting projects — until 2024. Cubs spokesman Julian Green said the Ricketts family “appreciates the city being a partner.”

Odds & Sods

Dick Allen is arguably the most underrated player to have ever played major league baseball.

Friday Stove

Black Friday is as good as time as any for the 30 MLB front offices to light that hot stove.

Yadier Molina confirmed that the Angels, Padres, Mets, and Yankees are among the teams that have contacted his agent. The 38-year-old catcher has played his entire career with the Cardinals and is seeking a two-year deal in free agency.

The Orioles are reportedly interested in signing outfielder Yasiel Puig.

The Red Sox may also be interested in Puig.

Blake Snell being on the trade block is more proof that the Rays are bad for baseball.

Yankees announcer Michael Kay ripped into Aaron Boone for the manager’s defense of catcher Gary Sánchez.

Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena has been released from jail by Mexican authorities.

The no-hitter thrown by White Sox starter Lucas Giolito on August 25 was named the best MLB moment of the year and Dodgers fans are raging against the machine right now.

New Mets owner Steve Cohen revealed he owns the infamous Bill Buckner ball from Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

Extra Innings

There is never a time where I do not like watching Carlton Fisk hit that walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

They Said It

  • “I think that that’s part of the beauty of going outside the organization [to find a GM]. I kind of encourage that and I think, for me, the most important thing I’m going to be trying to find is a sense of trust. That’s probably part of the relationship with Theo that I value on top of everything else, is that these are high-pressure jobs and you make a lot of tough decisions, and things are going to go wrong. And I think you have to know that that person is with you 100 percent and that there’s no dividing the two of you.” – Jed Hoyer
  • “I don’t foresee that there’ll be full capacity crowds [at Wrigley Field] next year. I don’t want to opine as to what size or what percent capacity. But I hope they put together a safety plan for their fans and for the community and get baseball started on time with fans in the stadium. It’s incumbent if we’re gonna have an economy next year.” – Alderman Gene Tunney

Friday Walk Up Song

The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen featuring Tom Morello – It’s going to be a Grapes of Wrath winter for baseball’s financially downtrodden teams, which apparently includes the Cubs.

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